Are the Lions finally mending fences with Calvin Johnson? The Hall of Fame receiver says their relationship is "trending up."
Johnson has been estranged from the only team he ever played for, other than to be inducted into the Pride of the Lions during a halftime ceremony in which he received his Hall of Fame ring last season, from the moment they made him pay back $1.6 million in bonus money after his early retirement in 2016.
And he's been insistent he wants nothing to do with the Lions until "they put that money back in my pocket." Last we heard from Johnson on the matter, he called the organization's proposed repayment plan whereby he would make a series of public appearances on behalf of the team over the course of three years "a joke."
"They need to figure out a way to do it and not have me work for it, because I already did the work for it," he said.
It sounds like they've made progress. In an interview with the New York Post published Thursday, Johnson said, "We're trying to come together and make something happen."
"Obviously I’d love to be around the team and do more things there and help the guys out," said Johnson, who speaks highly of Dan Campbell, his former teammate. "It’s good that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Johnson, who has also recently had some friendly conversations with owner Sheila Ford Hamp, declined to go into specifics about the money: “Like I said, we’re in the process."
Johnson, 37, has previously said it "would be nice" to mend fences with the Lions "because I love football and I love pouring back into the team," but "ain't no way I’m coming back over there to do anything unless (that money is) coming back and I see how it’s coming back."
Problem is, NFL rules prevent the Lions from repaying Johnson's bonus without incurring a salary cap hit if he's not officially employed by the team. So Johnson wants what the Lions, in their minds, can't give him in good conscience.
As far as he's concerned, that's their problem to solve.
"I’m not going to bend over backwards to try to do anything, because I didn’t do anything," he said. "I did my job."
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